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December 16, 2019

Due South

By Jhanna Vasser '19
Guilford students are regularly inspired by their professors to go out into the world and make change. The opposite is often true, too, when professors and students have truly collaborative relationships.

That’s the case for Tenaja “Ten” Henson ’20 and Mattie Schaefer ’20, who recently co-facilitated a new course with their Justice and Policy Studies and Philosophy professors.

“About a year and a half ago, Mattie and I co-taught a community-building class Ten was in. We were talking about activists we think are awesome, and Ten was talking about some folks in San Diego, suggesting we do a road trip,” says Justice and Policy Studies Assistant Professor Krista Craven. “Mattie and I were like, that’s a really long road trip! But we could get training from activists who are doing really good intersectional work closer to home.”

Once the plan to launch the Guilford Edge 3/12 course schedule was officially in position, Krista and Professor of Philosophy Lisa McLeod applied to facilitate a course titled, “Social Justice in the Southern U.S.,” with Ten and Mattie as their co-facilitators.

“Working beside and collaborating with Krista, Ten, and Mattie gave us an opportunity to not have to think of every single thing on our own,” Lisa says. “Ten and Mattie are great because they have their own areas of expertise, in student affairs and in other things that make them alert to various issues, but then also just in terms of inter- and intra-group relations while we were on the road.”

Lisa adds, “And Krista was really good at team teaching. It was very clear that our TA’s felt free to ask anything and share their concerns with Krista, talking about how the course was going.”

“We spend a lot of time talking, reading, and learning about all the amazing work people around the country are doing to dismantle oppression. To go learn with them, engage with their methods for peace and community building, seemed like an experience my peers and I could benefit from."

Tenaja “Ten” Henson ’20
Community and Justice Studies major, Religious Studies minor

A Collaborative Quest

“Social Justice in the Southern U.S.” is designed to be experimental in nature, where students travel throughout the Southern U.S., specifically through Greensboro, N.C., Atlanta, Montgomery, Ala., New Orleans, Little Rock, Ark., and Nashville, Tenn.

“The course was about breaking down the largely inaccurate notions many have about the South,” says Mattie, a double major in Community and Justice Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a minor in Sociology

Students received direct training on dismantling systems of oppression; understanding the intersections of identity (race, class, gender, sexuality, and immigration status); and how broader systems affect the lives of individuals and social groups at the intersection of these identities.

The group visited a variety of organizations, including Siembra NC, the International Civil Rights Museum, Southern Fried Queer Pride, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice Atlanta, among others. They also met with Chief Diversity Officer Sybol Anderson at Loyola University, activist Judia Holton ’18, and members of the JUMP Research Collective.

“We spend a lot of time talking, reading, and learning about all the amazing work people around the country are doing to dismantle oppression,” says Ten, a Community and Justice Studies major and Religious Studies minor. “To go learn with them, engage with their methods for peace and community building, seemed like an experience my peers and I could benefit from. This is, after all, the work many of us will continue.”

A Look Ahead

Reflecting on the intention put into creating this course and the experiential learning students participated in, Krista shares what she hopes students gained.

“First, a deeper understanding of how social-justice organizing in the South can play out. Ultimately, understanding the contextually relevant nature of social-justice organizing, but also thinking about things that tie organizing in the South together. The second thing we wanted students to come out of this experience with are skills directly related to community organizing and to provide them with the opportunity to build strong community within the group, which we undoubtedly accomplished.”

In the future, Krista says she would like to see a structure put in place for paid student-faculty collaboration.

“Before coming to Guilford I hadn’t envisioned the extent to which I’d be able to have so much fun facilitating courses and doing engaged community-based learning. Within the last three to four years that I’ve been here, collaborating with students has really taken off. I think it’s really cool that you can dream big at Guilford and create opportunities for yourself.”

Related Links:

To learn more about the organizations students visited, explore the following links:

Looking for a college experience that gets you outside of the classroom? Schedule your visit to Guilford, submit your application, and be on the lookout for three-week courses geared to your interests.